2015 Archives

New tool maps school attendance zones across U.S.

Excerpt

The following is from the July 27, 2015, edition of Education Week. Assist. Prof. Meredith P. Richards of the SMU Simmons School's Department of Education Policy & Leadership provided expertise for this story.

August 4, 2015

By Sarah D. Sparks

Forget the common core or teacher salaries. Attendance zones may be the education topic most guaranteed to launch a debate in any school district in the country.

More than 4 out of 5 U.S. students attend the schools to which they were assigned by neighborhood. Many districts make at least some attendance-zone changes every few years. . . 

Understanding who goes to which area school and why may soon become a lot easier for education officials and community members alike. The U.S. Department of Education plans to release the first nationwide map of school attendance boundaries this summer. Starting in November, school districts will be able to use an online tool to draw or upload their own maps and download or tweak existing maps.

In the process, districts will create the most detailed picture yet of how American schools define their communities. Education officials will also have new tools to plan new schools and transportation routes, and to identify equity problems across the district. In Georgia, for example, state education officials are considering using the data to track where foster children attend school. This could help the state provide more support for such students.

“I think there are very practical reasons schools want to be able to show where their boundaries are,” like qualifying for federal or state programs or relief after a disaster, said Meredith P. Richards, an assistant professor in education policy at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

“It is very difficult to create a [geographic-information system] map from scratch,” said Ms. Richards, who studies geographic issues in education. “Having a tool that will allow them to do this is fantastic.” 

Read the full story.

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